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From the Queen of Saba to a Modern State:

Date: 4/29/01
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From the Queen of Saba to a Modern State: 3,000 years of civilization in southern Arabia

“ With sure tidings have I come to thee from Saba” , says a somewhat unusual messenger to King Solomon in surah 27, verse 22, of the Holy Koran. Unusual because the messenger is a bird, a hoopoe, the most beautiful and most inquisitive of Solomon’s subjects, the king who had at his command people, birds and jinn's alike. The hoopoe had absented itself from Solomon’s entourage and on its flight arrived in Marib, the capital of Saba. There it had not only discovered a flourishing kingdom but, most strangely of all, a woman on the throne. The Queen of Saba in the Bible

We Europeans are more familiar with the biblical account of the Queen of Sheba’s (Hebrew for Saba) visit to Solomon. It occurs in the First Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles, the two versions differing only slightly: “ When the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold, and precious stones … “ Jesus brought the Queen of Sheba from the distant past into his covenant and placed her on the side of the Just. At the Last Judgement the Queen of the “South” (Semitic “Yemen”) , too , will sit on the throne and judge: “For she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon (Matthew 12,42 and Luke 11,31). This wonderful and colourful story has ever since fascinated the peoples of east and west, Jews and Christians of medieval times, Ethiopia and, of course, the peoples of Islam. It was a source of inspiration for the artists who created our Gothic cathedrals and Romanesque miniatures, and so many artists of later ages such as Piero della Francesca and Ghiberti, Holbein, Veronese, Hieronymus Bosch, or Cosmas Damian Arab, Persian, Turkish and Indian miniature painters, to whom we are indebted for some of the most charming masterpieces of Islamic art. A special book is devoted to the Queen of saba; the object of the exhibition and this catalogue, however, is to portray the old kingdom of Saba, that political system which for over one and a half millenia played a not insignificant role in the history and economic development of the Ancient Orient, a kingdom which in many respects can be regarded as the cradle of Arabian civilization and whose legendary accounts archaeologists, historians and ethnologists are now beginning to wrest from the sands of the desert. The beginnings of the Kingdom of Saba

No evidence has been found so far of the Queen of Saba ; nor is any reference made to her in Sabaic inscriptions. It is, however , worth mentioning that it was by no means unusual for a woman to sit on the throne in ancient Arabia. Inscriptions of Assyrian rulers in the 18th century B.C. contain many references to "qeens of the Arabs" who brought tribute or were defeated in battle. The southern Arabians had the monopoly for two of the most sought after materials of ancient times: frankincense and myrrah. These two resins only resins only grow in eastern Yemen (Hadramawt) and in Dhafar (the correct spelling of which is Zafar, today southern Oman, which in those days belonged to the kingdom of Hadramawt), and in some parts of Somalia. The frankincense route, one of the most ancient international trade routes, led from Southern Arabia to Ghaza in Palestine , running inland roughly parallel to the Red Sea and covering a total distance of almost 3,400 km. Not only the production but also the trade in these goods was in the hands of the ancient South Arabians. There was not a temple or wealthy home in Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Jerusalem or Rome which did not require these precious resins and was prepared to pay for their weight in gold. This explains to the historical background to the report about the Queen of Saba)s caravan journey to Jerusalem. The story points to the highly developed system of overland trade in the Arabian Peninsula and at the same time recalls the existence of queens amongst the Arabs, such an unusual phenomenon in the eyes of contemporary rulers in the Middle East. The historical origins of the kingdom of Saba

The oldest and most powerful state in ancient southern Atabia was Saba) with is capital Marib situated in the east of what is today the Yemen Arab Republic. It has to be mentioned here that the different transcriptions used in this catalogue are all based on good authority, each with arguments in its favour. I personally prefer the spelling “Saba” , with the accent on the second syllable as in the printed editions of the Koran, and for the capital the spelling “Marib”, the correct form according to Qadi Ismail al-Akwa. But how far does this Sabean civilization go back? At which period in history should we presume that the first inscriptions and monumental constructions were produced? Although countless inscriptions have been found in southern Arabia there are no dated ones among those clearly belonging to the early period. Thus we have to draw our conclusions about the chronology of southern Arabia from Assyrian sources, such as the one inscription of Sargon II for the year 716 or 715 B.C., which reports about a tribute from the Sabean ruler Yitha amar. In the historical introduction to this catalogue, Walter W. Muller presents a picture, based chiefly on the works of the scholar Hermann von Wissmann, which more or less corresponds with the views of Saba” , as he is called gists. According to this chronology, there is good reason to assume that “Karib II, Watar, who had a record of B.C., was the ruler Karib II Watar, who had a record of his deeds caved in stone in the temple of Sirwah where it can still be seen today. This inscription, and another one the same temple, gives an account of his many ferocious campaigns against the south Arabian kingdom of Ausan (north of Aden) and against Najran (today a southern province of Saudi Arabia). It tells of his alliances with the kingdoms of Hadramawt and Qataban, and also of peaceful undertakings, such as irrigation projects, the cultivation of crops, work on the dam and the royal palace at Marib. The French and Italian scholars who have contributed to this catalogue hold the view, however, that the regions monumental culture (inscriptions, temples, town walls, dam, and also the first millenium B.C. Jacqueline Pirenne explains the reasons for this chronology in her article. The Marib Dam

This dam is the greatest technical structure of antiquity and the wonder of Arabia; its final collapse, which happened around 600 A.D., is described in the koran (surah 35, 15 f.) as God’s punishment, as the end of the old world, as the turning point in history: “A sign there was to Saba, in their dwelling places:- two gardens, the one on the right and the one on the left:- Eat ye of your Lord’s supplies, and give thanks to him: Goodly is the country, and gracious is the Lord! n But they turned aside : so We sent upon them the flood of (Irem; and We changed them their gardens into two gardens of bitter fruit and tamarisk and some few jujube trees.” The mighty dam checked the largest of the water courses of the Yemeni uplands as it entered the eastern desert, thus providing irrigation for an area of about 25,000 acres. The two rainy seasons in the Yemeni mountains allowed irrigation twice a year, the sediments from which left extremely fertile land, making the desert into a wonderful garden (or two, according to the Koran”s exact distinction between the oasis on the river). Careful use of the one on the southern side of the river). Careful use of the precious water and an efficient administration and smooth running of the system, of its political structure and power. Research conducted by the German Archaelogical Institute, which Jurgen Schmidt reports on in this catalogue, has in recent years quite unexpectedly modified our dating theory. According to the Institute’s findings, artificial irrigation at Marib began as the middle of the third millenium B.C., whilst systematic irrigation was in progress at the end of that millenium. This, in my view, makes the earlier dating of classical south Arabian civilization more plausible. The articles by Italian researchers are concerned with prehistoric developments. They have found traces of early Stone Age man (400,000 - 200,000 years ago), as well as extensive neolithic material. Above all, we now have evidence of a Bronze Ago agriculture in the uplands, beginning about 3,000 B.C. and ending very abruptly in the middle of the second millenium. Perhaps this civilization shifted eastwards and, as a result of population growth, gave rise to the early towns, principally Marib, the capital of Saba). The Other technical wonder of southern Arabia: the first highrise buildings

The five principal kingdoms in ancient southern Arabia were Saba, the oldest, the most important and most powerful among them, followed by Hadramawt, Ausan, Qataban and main. The history of southern Arabia was marked by constant strife and wars among these states. The French archaeologists present us in their article with an unusually vivid and at the same time harrowing picture of the conquest and destruction of the royal palace of Shabwa (capital of Hadramawt) by Sabean troops. Archaeological evidence of that event (217 or 218 A.D.) has been preserved. Their excavations have also shown that the ancient inhabitants of southern Arabia erected high rise buildings, so that their towns really did look like the Shibam of today, the “ Chicago of the desert” like Yishbum, or the old part of Sana’a and many of the tower- like houses which dominate Yemenite villages. The French archaeologists have not only discovered the high-rise palace of Shabwah but also a private home which was eight storeys high. A four-line inscription, today in the Museum of Sana’a also proves this to have been the case in the Sabean Himyaritc region: Muhabayyih atkan, son of Manakhum, and Akhal and Bahil and halilum, of the Musawwilum (clan) have built and founded and improved and completed their stone house Ahdathan from the floor up to a level of six ceilings with six stories, and they have added two (further) storys and all the store rooms and its terrace (?) and the stone structure of Dhu-kahnal. For “ storey the Sabean text uses the word “saqf”, which is the term still used in sana’a today In the concluding chapter of this book, Yusuf Abdallah, transcending the role of the academic, paints a vivid picture of the stunning cultural achievements of the achievements of the Yemeni people throughout the ages. The Yemen appears to have enjoyed a remarkable continuity of ancient forms in the areas of language, customs and traditions, which has made it possible for scholars to approach many a question with a kind of “ethnological archaeology”. Art from saba : the statue of Maadi karib

Apart from their exceptional technical accomplishments- the art of irrigation, particularly the marib dam, and the earliest tall building sin the history of mankind- - the ancient South Arabians also produced distinctive works of art. One cannot fail to be moved by the majesty of the poised figure of Prince Maadi Karib, clearly a focal point in our exhibition. This statue, too , is hard to date Until recently it was considered to be of the 5th or 6th century B.C., but the scholars and the restorers of the Roman-Germanic Museum in Mainz feel that it might be much older, perhaps from the 8th or 7th century B.C. One thing, however, is certain: this statue, which was found in the Awam, the Great Temple of Marib, is the most outstanding work of art produced by the ancient Arabs. The visitor will also be struck by the beauty of some of the inscriptions next to the statue, especially the stele from the Louver. The beauty of this inscription leaves little doubt that here lie the roots of the art of calligraphy which the Arabs brought to such perfection after Islam. Where there is writing, there is also language. Two articles approach this subject from different angles; they are the contributions by A.F. L. Beeston and Giovanni Garbini. Ancient southern Arabia and its relations with the outside world

The economy of Saba and the other kingdoms of southern Arabia was based on agriculture, but they owed their tremendous wealth to trade with distant nations. Saba’s trade was not confined to the indigenous products of frankincense and myrrh, it covered the transit of all the goods shipped from India which passed through the southern Arabian ports of Qana (Hadramawt ) and Aden. Ezechiel (27,23) mentions both ports (as “Kanne” and “Eden” ) together with Sheba (saba). From here the caravans plied the frankincense route to the Mediterranean and returned with Mediterranean works of art and new ideas. One example to be seen in the exhibition is an archaic Peloponnesian bronze statuette, which was found in al-Barira in the Wadi Jirdan (south of Shabwa). The significance of this find is obvious if we consider this masterpiece of Greek art (approx. 540-530 B.C.) in relation to the eleven other similar statuettes excavated in Greece and southern Italy. Such a work of art, of the kind which the Greeks offered at Olympia, must even then have cost a fortune, but it also testifies to the taste of the merchant who bought it. A rock inscription at al-Uqla near Shabwa where the kings of Hadramawt annually re-enacted the coronation ritual, tells of delegations from Palmyra, Chaldea and India about 235 A.D., whom the ruler apparently invited to attend this important event. In an inscription found in Marib’s Awam Temple and dating probably to 295 A.D. a certain Raiman reports that for 40 years he was governor of king Shammar Yuharisch in Sada (today the largest city in northern Yemen ) and offers thanks to the gods for his safe return from an ambassadorial mission to Ctesiphon and Seleukia. An altar with Minean and Greek inscriptions was found on the island of Delos. It had been erected by two merchants from Main in honour of their god Wadd. It is therefore no surprise that the Greek and Latin authors, though writing in Arabian Nights style rather than supplying precise information, were able to report about events in southern Arabia. About the middle of the 5th century B.C. Herodotus wrote: “The southernmost inhabited land in the south is Arabia. It is the only place in the world where frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon and ledanom grow.” And died 79 A.D., when he was killed at Pompeii) was much more precise. He knew the capitals of the southern Arabian kingdoms, he gives the distance between Timna(the capital of Qataban) and Ghaza, the end of the frankincense route, as 2, 437,500 steps, or 65 days by camel. He was particularly impressed by the prices of South Arabian goods and complains bitterly about Rome’s trade deficit (100 million sesterces) : “So expensive are us our luxuries and our women!” The Romans looked upon the riches of southern Arabia with envy. In 25/24 B.C. they tried to conquer Saba but the climate and the desert forced them to retreat when they had almost reached Marib. Discovery of the monsoon and the direct shipping route to India

But at that time southern Arabia’s economy underwent a dramatic change as significant as the introduction of the caravan trade a thousand years previously. It came with the discovery of the monsoon by Greek seamen in Egypt, which led to the establishment of a direct sea route between Egypt and India. It is said that the monsoon passage was found by a helmsman named Hippalos and that the first crossing of the Indian Ocean was made by Eudoxos from Kyzikos. Be that as it may, from the 1st century B.C. ships plied regularly – and directly – between India and Egypt. Only seldom did the ships now stop at Aden, which had still been very well known to the classical authors; Pliny calls it “Athena” Ptolemy refers to it as “Arabia Emporion” , and in the periplus Maris Erithraei (“Circumnavigation of the Erythrean Sea”), Aden is mentioned as “ Eudaimon Arabia” (Happy Arabia). This was also the name used for the whole of South West Arabia (Yemen) in ancient times, Arabia being divided by the geographers into Arabia Felix in the south, Arabia Petraea (Stony Arabia, named after Petra, capital of the Nabtean kingdom) in the north, and Arabia Deserta (Desert Arabia) in the center of the peninsula. The loss of the monopoly on trade to India heralded the decline of the ancient kingdoms. All of them were situated on the eastern side of the Yemeni mountain range Now that there were no longer large caravan trains. The centre of trade switched westwards, to the coast of the Red Sea, where the kingdom of Himyar began to flourish. Its capital Zafar lies to the north of what is today’s city of Taizz. At about this time Sana’a, too, was enjoying increasing prosperity. In the centuries that followed, Himyar succeeded in conquering the whole of south-west Arabia. Down to this day, Himyar lives on in the memories of the Yemenis as the last and the most powerful kingdom of ancient Yemen. This exhibition also contains a page from a famous Greek manuscript, now in the university library in Heidelberg, the Periplus Maris Erithraei, a manual written by an (unfortunately anonymous) seafarer, the date of which is highly disputed. It was probably written about 100 A.D. the sea trade between Egypt and India functioned. Of most interest to us is the section relating to south-west Arabia. For the area of Mokka (al-Makha) it refers to a port “Mouza” which is said to belong to the kingdom of Himyar with its capital Zafar. The Periplus then mentions Aden (Eudaimon Arabia) as the next port. Most attempts to locate Mouza have led to the conclusion that it is probably the town of Mauza, which is about 20km inland from Makka. But this can hardly be the case if it is supposed to be a port. Some 30km to the north of Makka is the hamlet of Mawshij. Local people told me that although this was the official name it had always been known as “Moshi”. Referred to in the Periplus, and checking the literature, I have found that both R. B. Serjeant and Hermann von Wissmann had already come to the very same conclusion. The village of Moshi has also preserved an interesting aspect concerning the history of religion: I was told there that the old mosque (reputedly founded by( Ali Abu talib) had been a church before Islam. But most important of all, I was shown some broken stones that I had not noticed before, outside the wall surrounding the mosque; I was told they were the remains of a stone column which, together with a somewhat shorter one, had previously stood inside the walled courtyard of the mosque; the two pillars had then been broken up and put outside the precinct. It was also possible to discern the site where they had stood before, in front of the large right dome. I would therefore presume that they are in fact the pre-Islamic cult pillars of the type described by me in a paper concerned with another Tihama site. This cult, which was also practiced in the cathedral of sana’a was part of the ritual on the central feast of pagan South Arabia, and connected with a pilgrimage. The mosque of Moshi. Too, had such a ziyara until a few years ago: it was celebrated “ fi nus shaban , i. e. the canonical date (15th Rajab or 15th Shaban) of the central feast of the old Sabean religion. Christianity and Jewry in Late Antiquity

In the following centuries Himyar was affected by the cultural and political development of that time. Religion became more and more a kind of henotheism, a pantheon, headed by “Rahman” , the merciful. Churches (Nestorian) were established in Sana’a ,Zafar, Aden, al-Makha (Mokka), Marib, Najran, and on Soqotra. There was also, as mentioned in Aviva Klein-Franke’s article, a fair proportion of Jews. At the beginning of the 6th century A.D., when the Himyarite monarchs were trying to steer a middle course between the big powers of Byzantium and Persia, some of them adopted Judaism. The (Perhaps third) Jewish king of Himyar, Yusuf Asar (referred to in Arabic tradition as Yusuf Dhu Nuwas) reigned around 520 A.D., and destroyed the Christian churches in Zafar and al-Makha. The persecution and martyrdom of the Christians of Najran which we are told about in Christian hagiographies and in the Koran, can probably be dated 523 A.D. The Negus, supported by Byzantium, sent a punitive expedition which resulted in the installation of an Ethiopian governor in Yemen. Still, southern Arabia’s rivalry with neighboring Abyssinia (Habash) goes much further back. About the middle of the first millennium B.C., southern Arabian tribes, the Habash, migrated to “(H) abyssinia”, gave the land their name and moulded their main languages and some elements of there culture in the south Arabian pattern. Walter Raunig explores this two- and - a half - thousand year relationship in his article. The end of ancient southern Arabia: Yemen follows the teaching of the Prophet

An indigenous dynasty flourished for a while but then one of the last Persian governor, Badhan, converted to Islam in 628 A.D. In the same year, Abu Musa al-Ashari (from the region around Zabid in the Tihama) and several of his brothers and members of his tribe, joined the Prophet and became some of his closest companions. A new era began. Islamic Yemen became part of the huge religious empire which set out to conquer the world. Yemenites played an important role in this process. The Wisdom of Yemen

It is not primarily for their military record, however, that the Yemenites have gained a place in the history of Islam, where they are mainly remembered for their peaceful achievements. One of the Prophet’s best known and most widely quoted sayings (hadith) runs like this. A poetic glimpse of Yemen’s economic history

When the Prophet Muhammad united the Arabian Peninsula in the Islamic faith and the Arabs set out to conquer the world, they came from totally different civilizations. There were the tradesmen from Mecca and Medina, the Bedu of the vast deserts and semi-deserts, the farmers from the small principalities in the north which were under the cultural influence of Byzantium and Persia, and the southerners, the Yemenis, who accounted for perhaps half of the population of Arabia and had enjoyed the fruits of civilization for at least one and a half millennia. No wonder that the goods produced in southern Arabia were of the finest quality and in great demand, and that they were highly praised by poets before and after the rise of Islam. Since these commodities until recently not only enjoyed literary fame but were the mainstay of Yemen’s economy, they are worth studying a little more closely. With the exception of Yemeni horsemanship, the exhibition shows examples of five things which Arabs associate with Yemen: sword and shield, textiles, leather and agates. But first a word about horsemanship. When Amribn al-As conquered Egypt with his Arab army of 3,000, it included the cavalry from Yemen. That event and the two other major battles of those days – the one at the Yarmuk (against Byzantium, 636 A.D.) during which Palestine was conquered, and the one at al-Qadi-Yazdigird III was defeated – are recalled in a poem by Qais bin al-Makshuh al-Muradi, one of the knights of those early years: From Sana’a I led the horses, On each a rider fully armed, Each like a roaring lion, Up to the Wadi al-Qurra To the tents of the tribe of Kalb To the Yarmuk and the Syrian land. We arrived at al-Qadisiya month After their hoofs Had left Damascus behind, To battle there with Kosraw’s armies And his satraps of noble clan … The sword of the Prophet This is of course the most famous sword of Islam. It bears the name Dhu al-Faqar (“Zulfikar”). It belonged to a pagan who died in the battle of Badr (624 A.D.). It was later inherited by Ali and thus – although it subsequently found its way into the treasure of the caliphs – it became, and has remained to this day, a symbol, if not the symbol of the Shiites. Just as famous as the Dhu al-faqar was the al-Samsama sword which belonged to the Yemenite poet and warrior Amr bin Maadi Karib, whose life and poems are dealt with in this catalogue in the article by Muhammad Abduh Ghanim. The al-Samsama also came eventually into the possession of the caliphs. Both swords were crafted in Yemen and soon became the subjects of legends. Thus they were attributed to the Himyarite king Shammar Yuharish, or to the legendary tribe of Ad, even to the Queen of Sheba herself. Many attempts have been made to reconstruct the shapes of these two swords from the few available literary sources. The illustrations produced in later centuries are of no use whatsoever for this purpose. We have dwelt on this subject simply because the exhibition does contain an authentic ancient Yemenite Dhu al-faqar, a sword like the one the Prophet held in his hand! Our exhibit, with its two asymmetrical grooves, was identified by the sowrdsmith at Al-Juba (where an excavation only a few hundred yards away traced the existence of a Sabean smithy) as one made by his ancestors, of a type not knowledge and skill for its manufacture was still passed down from father to son. Because of the two long grooves, the correct name for this type of sword is Abufaqaratayn (“father of the two grooves”) , so the smith told me, but usually this word was shortened to Saif mufaqqar (“sword with grooves”). From the technical point of view , the smith said, the sword was a “muhanda” (from India, hind), but he added that this was a term for the finest Yemeni steel. There are only very few ancient depictions of pre-Islamic Yemeni swords in existence; there is one in a relief of a battle theme from Zafar, now in the Sana’a Museum. It shows quite clearly the grooves near the edge of the blade. The length of the sword can be accurately gauged by comparing it with the size of the warriors, and it again corresponds to the Dhu al-faqar sword of the Himyar, the sowrd of the Prophet, the shape of which had been a puzzle for so long : a straight blade, two cutting edges, two asymmetrical grooves, a simple handle. Not a decorative sword but an excellent piece of craftsmanship: Boldly they storm forward in their fearsome attack, Brandishing their sharp, double-edged swords from Yemen! If someone calls for help they ask not who is calling, To What battle or to what place… The poet who speaks of such a double-edged Yemenite Dhu al-faqar is Waddak bin Thumail al-Mazini. It is not Known exactly when he lived, but according to Qadi Ismail al-Akwa it was either before the advent of Islam, or Waddak was one of those who experienced its arrival in old age and then converted to it. And now a verse from the poet who, for the past 1,000 years, has been considered by most Arabs as the greatest master of their language, al-Mutanabbi (915—965 A.D.): So highly do I value The sowrd from Yemen, (al-Yamani) with its two edges, That, were it only possible, I would make it the scabbard of my eyes. From the sword to the Janbiyah, the most typical symbol of Yemeni manhood. What counts most to the Yemeni is the handle, then the blade and finally the scabbard. Nonetheless, decorative scabbards have been praised throughout the ages and always commanded a high price. A particularly magnificent example is on display in our exhibition. It is of the kind which was worn by the members of the Imam’s family; several of this style are in the National Museum in Sana’a. The gold plated silver scabbard is covered with ancient verses, such as “ Paradise lies in the shadow of the swords “, “ May the owner enjoy happiness and God’s blessing”, and “May he enjoy throughout his life all this blade brings him”, “Allah is the supreme ruler”. It was crafted and signed in 1946 by abdallah Ali al-Akwa. The silversmith’s craft, like other trades, has such high standing in Yemen, that members of the noble families practiced it, as we can see from this example. Leather and escutcheons from Yemen

Tarafa, one of those seven pre-Islamic poets whose masterpieces were embossed in gold letters on gazelle leather and hung up on the Kaba, compares the lips of his steed with Yemeni leather. Amr ibn Kulthum, another of the seven, extols a battle with the words: “We wore helmets and escutcheons made of Yemenite leather …”. Our exhibition contains such an escutcheon. It is surprisingly small, not being designed for body protection but to ward off enemy blows. Agate from Yemen

Down the ages Yemen has been famous for its precious stones, which have mostly been cut and polished in Sana’a. Today the term commonly used is “ Yemeni agate”. Again looking for a verse from one of the great poets, one of whom at least, I felt, must have sung the praises of Yemeni agate, I drew a blank at first. But then I had a clue from Arberry’s translation of a verse from the Muallaqa of Imru al-Qais in which the poet, describing a hunting scene, uses a beautiful poetic image; He drives his horse into a herd of antelopes and, as Arberry says, “turning to flee, they were beads of Yemen spaced … hung on a boy’s neck …”. The most comprehensive ancient Arabic encyclopedia, Lisan alarab, contains another verse by Imru al-Qais where the word “jaz” is explained as “Yemeni Jaz”, a precious stone with black and white layers. As such a stone is today technically known as onyx (a chalzedon variety), the modern translation of that verse would be; A black Yemen onyx onyx unpierced, Like the eyes of wild animals All around our tents, And around the saddles of our camels on the ground … To find a more exact definition of the word “jaz”, I thought of al-Hamdani, the historian and geographer who died in 945 A.D. And sure enough, that “there are mines states in the eight book of his Iklil that “there are mines of Jaz in many parts of Yemen”. The description of the individual varieties makes it clear that Jaz must be translated as chalzedon, the generic mineralogical term. Al-Hamdani describes the many varieties as stratified agate (which he calls پ93"aqiq”) and onyx Al-Hamdani also mentions the “samawi, “ the heavenly”. Considering the extremely close mineralogical affinity of these stones and the name most commonly found in European languages, agate, we need not claim too much poetic licence to translate “Jaz” with “Yemeni agate”. The verse from the Muallaqa will then read: They turned to flee. Like a necklace around a noble neck, A string of two types of Yemeni agate, That’s what the fleeing herd booked like … The only remaining problem is the samawi, “the heavenly”. The solution comes from Yemeni stone-cutting craft practiced in Sana’a to this day. The blue stone which in our exhibition forms part of a modern piece of jewellery was bought as a “samawi” from Yemen’s last cutter of precious stones. He saw it as a particularly valuable kind of samawi because it is not only blue but contains a white streak. From the mineralogical point of view this stone is also a chalzedon which, on account of its stratification, falls into the agate category. Hamdani’s terminology but also clarified the meaning of a word contained in the greatest work of the most famous pre-Islamic poet. It was indeed Imru al-Qais who ennobled Yemeni agate through his poetry. Yemeni textiles

Textiles were the most important commodity produced in Yemen. Even in pre-Islamic times, the region was known for its cloth. The striped varieties, which are today woven under the name of “lihfa” and “masnaf”, were considered to be the best, and legend has it that (at least) one Himyarite ruler used it to cover the Kaba. The Prophet wore a cloak made of such striped material which he gave to the poet Kab bin Zuhair as a token of his admiration after hearing his poem “Suad has gone”. Upon Kab’s death the cloak found its way into the treasury of the caliphs for a price of 20,000 Dirhams and remained there until Bagdhad was sacked by the Mongols. The custom of covering the Kaba with a Yemenite cloth was still practiced, according to Ibn Battuta, as late as the 13th century by the Rasulid sultan al-Malik al-Muzaffar Yusuf, who reigned from 1250 to 1295. The widespread fame of Yemeni textiles is also apparent in Saadi’s “Golestan” in which a merchant brings glass items from Aleppo to Yemen “from where I shall return to Persia with precious Yemeni cloths”. These textiles are woven from cotton and linen. The exhibition shows several precious Tiraz materials with woven inscriptions (10th and 11th century) and more recent textiles from various parts of Yemen. A loom and an indigo dyer’s workshop from Zabid complete this survey. Wrote (Mukaddasi Description): “There is no indigo anywhere in the world like the indigo from Zabid”. It appears that the art of weaving inscriptions into articles of clothing died about 700 years ago, although texts in golden thread were knitted or woven into the kuffias (caps) worn by boys of the Imam’s and other noble families of Sana’a until about 50 years ago. A selection of such caps can be seen in the exhibition. The texts are all different; here is one which seems particularly beautiful: If it is true That my origin is earth Then the whole earth is my home And all the world my family. Yemen in Medieval times

Not only in point of time are Middle Ages in Yemen, that is to say the millennium from the rise of Islam to the first Turkish occupation, the Islamic epoch. Just as Christianity inspired the peoples of Europe to build the cathedrals, Islam changed, and made its impression upon, the Arabs. Architecture and crafts, science and painting flourished. The pride of the rulers and the piety of the people led to the building of countless mosques. Milestones in the medieval history of Yemen

In this catalogue G. Rex Smith presents a historical survey of medieval Yemen, the first to be made in such detail. Husayn al-Amri recounts this history under a fascinating new angle. Coins of Islamic Yemen give a new insight in the country’s dynasties and Wilferd Madelung gives a comprehensive survey on Islam in Yemen. We did indeed wish to bring the Islamic civilization of Yemen more fully to the attention of Western readers, who have hitherto mainly been interested in Antiquity. In the year 6 of the Islamic era the last Persian satrap was converted to the new faith, and the Prophet was still alive when the Great Mosque of Sana’a was built. In it, the largest trove of Islamic manuscripts to be discovered this century was found in 1974. German restorers and scholars are preserving them for posterity. They include the only two Omayyadic miniatures to have been retrieved so far! A representative selection of these extraordinary documents and calligraphies is presented in this catalogue. Perhaps the next date of truly historical significance is the year 284 H (879 A.D.), When al-Hadi Yahya, who was soon to become the first Zaidi Imam, entered Sada and established a dynasty which lasted until the 1962 revolution. During this 1,000 year period, the Imams ruled the north of Yemen (Sada) practically al the time, often the central region (Sana’a) , occasionally their power extended to the south (Taizz, Aden, Tihama), and rarely to the east (Hadramawt). The monarchy ceased to exist 25 years ago. Revolution and the creation of the Republic have brought the Yemeni people into contact with the modern world on a scale never before dreamed of. One should not forget, however, that it was the Imams who on various occasions during that millennium defended Yemen’s national identity: against the larger arabian-Islamic powers who sought to incorporate Yemen as one of their provinces , against the Ottomans on two occasions, and ultimately, in this century, against colonialism. Also worth mentioning in my opinion is the establishment of the school of Islamic studies at Zabid (9th century). This university, older than the Azhar in Cairo was perhaps the most important place of teaching and research in southern Arabia Tens of thousands of manuscripts are still waiting there to be sorted and preserved. The second Queen of Saba

Think of the Yemen and you will think of Bilqis, the Queen of Saba, -- but less well known in Europe is the fact that Yemen had a queen who really did exist – Queen Arwa, who reigned for over half a century (from 1074 or 1086 A.D.) her contemporaries called her “Bilqis the Younger”. She is mentioned here not as a curiosity but because she is remembered for her long and, for the most part, peaceful reign, for the many monuments she built, and for the political stability she gave to the country. According to G. Rex Smith, the outstanding date in Yemen’s medieval history is 1173, the year when Saladin’s brother conquered Yemen and made it a sovereign state within the Aiyubid empire thus for the first time establishing the political unity which was to be the basis of the country’s development from then on. The Rasulids (1228 -- 1454) were able to build on these foundations. Theirs can be said to be Yemen’s most flourishing period medieval times. The Rasulids: architecture, art and science

In her contribution to this catalogue Barbara Finster describes the most significant of the many architectural monuments erected by the Rasulids. They start with al-Muzaffar’s minaret in al-Mahjam, northern Tihama (second half of the 13th century). Al-Mahjam, today a village of straw huts, was, alongside Taizz and Zabid, one of the three capital cities of Rasulid Yemen. It was so important that it is marked on the wall map of Arabia in the ducal palace of Venice. But the city most associated with the Rasulids and still dominated by their architecture is Taizz the decorative front of the al-Muzaffariyah (completed probably in 1302/03) still dominates the old part of the town. Rising behind is the al-Ashrafihah (completed in 1395/96) with its two minarets. The influence of the Rasulids also extended to Mecca, where al-Mugahid Ali, from whose reign some fine metalwork can be seen in the exhibition, built a madrasa in 1339/40, as had the greatest of the Rasuild sultans before him, al-Malik al-Muzffar Yusuf (reigned from 1250 to 1295), whose architectural heritage is to be seen in al-Mahjam and Taizz. Not only were the Rasulids patrons of the arts and sciences, they were perhaps the only powerful dynasty whose members themselves rendered outstanding contributions to science. Daniel Varisco tells about scientific agriculture under the Rasulids, and about the contribution that era made to medicine. The most sensational – and I use this word advisedly – example of their scientific interest is, of course, the astrolabe constructed by the Yemeni sultan al-Ashraf Umar in 1291. A sultan scientist: even the manuscript in which he described in great detail the construction of this astrolabe has been preserved. Our exhibition includes this astrolabe as one of the prize exhibits in the medieval Islamic section. In his article David King tells us about the development of astronomy in medieval Yemen. It has already been mentioned that arts and crafts under the Rasulids flourished to a degree unknown before, or with the exception of silver jewellery, since. Venetia Porter provides us with the most comprehensive survey to date to his period of Islamic art. Most of the metal objects with their extensive engravings, as well as the fine glass-ware, were commissioned by the Rasulids, presumably in Cairo and Damascus. These magnificently crafted articles were coveted as royal gifts all over the world, as evidenced by the glass vase bearing the Rasulid coat of arms which was discovered in China. But there are also reports of locally produced metalwork which the Rasulid sultans sent as gifts to the sultan in Cairo. Like so much of Yemen’s history, these objects had hitherto been unresearched, indeed , they were to a large extent unknown to European scholars. Quite a number these specimens of metal work, unfortunately not dated or signed, have been preserved in Yemen itself. They are very similar in style to the inlaid work of the Rasulids and to products of Mamluke art of the same period. Also preserved is the tradition that they date from the “al-dawla al-ghassassina”. This word has a curious etymology. It is said to derive from Ghassan , the mythical ancestor of the Rasulids. Qadi Ismail al-Akwa explained to me that the word does indeed mean the Rasulids. Most of these articles were apparently made in Sana’a , some in Dhamar and Taizz. Not long after the end of the Rasulid dynasty the world changed as never before. It doubled in size as a result of the discovery of America. The European powers and the Ottoman Empire sought to extend their sphere of influence to the Indian Ocean. In 1513 Affonso de Albuquerque tried unsuccessfully to capture Aden, but in 1540/41 Estevao de Gama could already sail unhindered through the Red Sea to Suez and back to Indian Sailing with him was Joao de Castro, who was later to become viceroy of India. He wrote the “Roteiro de Goa a Suez” the first modern nautical manual, including a map of the Red Sea. The naval expansion of the Portuguese induced the Turks to occupy Yemen in 1538/39. Yemen as part of the medieval system of world trade

In that era Yemen played a not insignificant role in world trade. We have already mentioned the Rasulid glass vase found in China. In the 11th and 12th centuries Aden was a center of overseas trade which was organised for the most part by Jewish merchants. This is the subject of one of the articles in this catalogue, and the exhibition itself contains some fascinating original letters and documents of these traders. The journey was occasionally accomplished in reverse as well, with Chinese traders coming to Arabia, as is shown in the account by the Chinese , Ma-huan, of the diplomatic visit to Aden in 1422 by the eunuch Li: “The land is rich, the people happy. The Chinese took with them coral branches, precious stones, and amber. “ The king (of Aden) , grateful for the most gracious attentions of the Chinese emperor, had two gilt belts made specially for his majesty …”. The Chinese also took back with them two rhinoceros horns as a “tribute”. In the middle of the 13th century the Chinese master of Ports, Chau Ju-Kua, wrote a detailed manual on trade with the western world. Literature and writers in medieval Yemen

Yemen is a land of poetry and literature. The two greatest figures in the medieval period were al-Hamdani, the historian and geographer, indeed “the tongue (“lisan”) of Yemen” as he is called (died 945 A.D. in Sana’a , and Nashwan bin Said al Himyari (died near Haidan in 1178 A.D.) Al-Hamdani, whose importance was conveyed to Western orientalists by the Austrian school in the last century, is mentioned in many parts of this catalogue. Nashwan, whose principal work was edited by Alfred von Kremer in 1865, is the subject of Qadi Ismail bin Ali al-Akwa’s study in this catalogue. It opens up completely new sources of material on Nashwan’s writings and particularly his views on politics and his relationship with the scholars of his time. Also dealing with the subject of literature is Muhammad Abduh Ghanim’s contribution, which ranges from the pre-Islamic age to the early modern era and presents various poets in beautiful verse and numerous anecdotes. The modern age in Yemen: coffee and mocca

manfred Wenner describes this period principally as the history of that commodity, coffee, with which Yemen once again, as in ancient times with frankincense and myrrh, succeeded in becoming a focal point of world trade – and of political rivalry. Coffee comes from Yemen , as does mocca. The genuine “mocca” does not grow in the Yemeni port of al-Makha, a name which has been transformed in the European languages into “mocca”, but it was shipped from there hence its name. In his article Horst Kopp concentrates on the agricultural and geographical aspects and describes the transformation of Yemeni agriculture. Some historical dates

1538/39 marked the beginning of the first Ottoman occupation of Yemen, which was resisted by the country’s most significant Imam of modern times, al-Qasim the Great (reigned from 1006 to 1029 H=1597/98 to 1620). The Yemenis still recount his deeds and how he held out in Hajja and Shahara. In 1839 the British occupied Aden and thus sealed the division between North and South Yemen that has lasted to the present day. The Turks responded by sending a task force to Yemen in 1848 and Sana’a was ultimately occupied (1872). Frequent uprisings, especially from the time of the assumption of power by Imam Yahya in 1904 onwards, finally forced the Turks to accept division of power under the agreement of Daan in 1911. The Imam was granted extensive powers of self-government. In 1918, having been on the losing side in World War I, the Turks had to withdraw from Yemen which not long afterwards obtained international recognition as an independent state (Treaty of Lusanne, 1923). From the Imam to revolution

In the decades that followed the most important events, at least from the point of view of Yemen were the Treaty of al-Taif (near Hodeida) in 1934, under which, after a lost war against Saudi Arabia, the province of Najran was ceded; then in 1948 the first Yemeni revolution in which Imam Yahya was murdered; the revolution of 26 September 1962 which led to the proclamation of the Republic in Sana’a (the Yemen Arab Republic), and southern Yemen’s acquisition of independence on 30 November 1967 as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Revolution and Republic

This period is of course closest to the Yemeni people, not only historically but also emotionally on account of the problems and struggles endured during those years Mohsin al-Aini, who was personally involved at all levels in the historic developments before and after 1962 , has summarized them in this catalogue. But the political events of that time also emerge quite distinctly in all the other articles which deal with contemporary subjects. Abd al-Aziz al-Maqalih, distinguished scholar and at the same time one of Yemen’s most eminent contemporary poets, describes in his survey of modern Yemeni poetry the course of political developments in Yemen over the past 40 to 50 years. Development and change

Hamid al-Iriani, in his article, traces the development, indeed one could almost say explosion, of education in Yemen and gives the European reader an idea of the dynamism and importance of such a process in a developing country. Asma al-Basha and Gabriele vom Bruck examine the change in the status of women, no less dramatic a development. Walter Dostal , in one of his contributions, describes the traditional society of the Bedouins, a settled tribal community of the uplands and of the cities of Sana’a and Tarim, as an integrated whole. But in his other contribution, the portrait of an idylic Yemeni rural community, he illustrates the necessary search for a new future, particularly in the economic field, the contours of which are still very vague. Development projects of the Jemeni authorities and in co-operation with and foreign donors, try to point the way. Contributions specifically concerned with development policy highlight the tremendous problems that confront a country which had practically no roads. No postal services, no public administration, no public health system, no education system when the Republic was born. They also underscore the extraordinary achievements (including several successful German – Yemeni infrastructure projects, such as the building of roads and an airport or the Netherlands contribution in integrated rural development and health care) over the past 25 years, as well as the problems ahead. And the discoverers?

Finally, the reader may ask where are the “discoveries” one would expect to find mentioned in such an introduction? Well – we do no longer speak of “discoveries” with the naïve confidence of previous ages. Did not perhaps those Yemenite merchants who built an altar to their God Wadd on the island of Delos 2,000 years ago ”discover” Europe? Or was it perhaps Ibn Nattuta considered by many the greatest traveler of all times, who discovered Yemen when, in the year 1328 , he passed through this region and made notes not only on the political situation, the currency and its history but also on ethnological questions? We may perhaps be forgiven, however, for taking a little pride in the fact that German-speaking scholars (German speaking rather than German because Carsten Niebuhr travelled as a member of a Danish expedition, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen held a post as Imperial Russian assessor, and Eduard Glaser was Austrian) have on the whole rendered an outstanding contribution to the understanding of so many aspects – but principally concerning the ancient history – of Yemen; Austrian and German scholars have done a great deal to edit and to preserve Yemeni works of literature (we have mentioned al-Hamdani and Nashwan al-Himyari); finally, it was two Germans who succeeded in deciphering the Sabean-Himyaritic language (Emil Rodiger and Wilhelm Gesenius in 1841). The reader will therefore also condone our reference to several of the bronzestatues in the National museum of Sana’a, including the statue of Maadi Karib, and the Koran manuscripts from Sana’a. One of the reasons why they can be seen at the world and the visitors to this exhibition through a German cultural co-operation project. Looking ahead

This exhibition spans the ages from the time of the Queen of Saba to a poor yet proud and self- confident developing country celebrating the 25th anniversary of its revolution. There are good reasons to celebrate. On 21 December 1986 the new Marib dam was inaugurated. It lies two kilometers above the ancient dam which was regarded as one of the wonders of the world and was made immortal in the Holy Book of God. Whereas the Queen of Saba was able to look with satisfaction on 25,000 acres of fertile land, the new dam will store 398 million cubic meters of water and soon make 20,000 , later 45,000 acres of desert green. A little further east oil has been discovered. A small refinery has been in operation since 1986 and is meeting a growing proportion of Yemen’s oil requirements. It is expected that 400,000 barrels a day will be exported from 1988. Let us hope and trust that the people of Yemen will not be forsaken by the good fortune that once gave their country the name Happy Arabia, and that prosperity will not only help them fulfill their dreams of development, progress and equal standing with the other members of the family of nations, but also that one day they may achieve what all Yemenis want so dearly – the reunification of the divided country. Only then will the hope of Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubayri (about 1910 – 1965) be fulfilled. This introduction ends with a reference to him not merely because he is today honoured and celebrated as “the father of the fatherland” and as “father of the revolution”, and because Sana’a’s principal road is named after him , but also because through him and the blind Abdallah al-Baraduni Yemeni poetry has regained the powerful language , the imagery and realism that characterized it in the yore. Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubyri’s poetry is poetry in action. Where else will You find a poet whose words helped bring about a revolution, a politician whose verse made him immortal, a man who had the good fortune to live to see the fruits of his efforts yet had the tragic honour of dying in a hall of bullets as he attempted to reconcile the rival parties of his fatherland? Nor, of course, can we leave unmentioned the fact that a revolution cannot merely be brought about by poetry but is rather the fruit of the actual sufferings of the people and of their desire for political and social rights. But it was Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubyri who has expressed their anger and their yearnings in words. “The call for the re-awakening” This poem became the manifesto of the Yemeni liberation movement. Al-Zubayri read it out at the first general assembly of the Party of Free Yemenites in Aden in 1944: Now lay claim to your place in history, my pen, Here today tribes and nations are being re-awakened! Here proud hearts are re-united, Here is love, family, the mother’s lap, Here is Arabism, arisen in our heroes, Here are fame, glory, pride and deeds accomplished. Here are the stars arisen from their graves, Here they rise again over the world, smiling. Here the volcanoes erupt, stirred from their rest, They sweep away and devour the tyrant. Not we have aroused them from their sleep, Allah himself has wakened them, Aroused their anger and their pain. A nation broke free from the chains of its conqueror, And threw away the darkness and oppression. It lay in bondage and rebelled and destroyed him So that its feet would no more be chained. They : how long have they treated it badly And it has remained patient! They are not content to own a nation of slaves Over whom they are the masters, They nation, its soul, has offered everything for them, Nothing have they acknowledged, never were they content. Nor, alas, did they ever grow tired of it.

Great pictures from Yemen

Index

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Last changed: September 15, 2002